Observation in Research

Observation is a very good and consistent way by which we can find out about what is happening in the world around us. We as human beings have the calibre to grasp the detailed information about the environment around us by the means of our senses. However, when we implement observation in the field of research, observation goes beyond looking or listening. The most fundamental definition of research is it is “systematic enquiry made public.”  First and foremost, so as to have systematic research through observation, it is important to make observation very selective.  A huge amount of sensory information is bombarded on us from whom the researcher has to have the potential to identify only the useful information and discard the redundant one. This is called systematic observation and it calls for careful planning of what we want to observe. Another important fact to be remembered for research based observation is that the information has to be recorded in a way to allow the interpretation and analysis of the information.

Observation as a tool for research originated as technique in the beginning of the development of science itself. The research work of Charles Darwin is an apt example of observation as a means of understanding and propagating the theory of the origin of the species. This theory has been the foundation theory which has set the road for many further researches.

Whenever a researcher uses the term systematic research, in terms of observation as well, it is from the perspective of quantitative research where the data collected is reliable and quantifiable. It has to, for this purpose, use a structured observation instrument. In the case of quantitative research, the instrument that is being used for observation has to identify and define the variables, items under observation, and the means of conducting the observation and when and where would the observation take place.

While in the case of qualitative research, the research is more unstructured and the researcher does not define pre-determined categories or questions from his mind but would carefully observe and file the notes that have been recorded.

.Usually, amongst researchers, structured observation is carried out with a positivist perspective and unstructured observation is carried out with an imperative and critical or interpretive perspective.

Within the domain of research, we see both these phenomena are being used widely with different perspectives